Anaïs in Love review – cerebral eroticism and summery thrills in French adultery farce

<span>Photograph: AP</span>
Photograph: AP

An amusing snapshot of millennial restlessness, Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s droll debut is another addition to the recent crop of films where young women are always running on screen, a lot. Lamented by an ex-boyfriend as a “bulldozer”, Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) saunters into every human interaction with the force of a whirlwind. Forever pacing back and forth, she goes off on idiosyncratic tangents as if oblivious to the bewildered other party.

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Such personality quirks in large doses could soon turn tiresome and narcissistic if not for Demoustier’s effervescent charm. A graduate student who perpetually dodges the deadlines of her doctoral thesis, Anaïs is averse to commitment, to the challenge of buckling down and concluding things; she is constantly searching for the next emotional stimulant. After a disappointing tryst with Daniel (Denis Podalydès), a publisher twice her age, she suddenly carries a torch for his partner Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), a beautiful novelist whose writing uncannily resonates with Anaïs’s own neuroses. Just when Anaïs manages to seduce the older woman at a writing retreat, Daniel unexpectedly shows up. What ensues has a touch of the classic French adultery farce, yet the genuine connection between the two women also hints at a possible finish line to Anaïs’s ceaseless sprinting.

While the stakes here are a bit too low to elevate the film to a substantial work, there are many pleasures to be gleaned, including the beauty of the French countryside and the cerebral eroticism of literary exchanges. Its depiction of abortion is also refreshing: the act is neither melodramatic nor moralised, but simply a decision for a woman to make. Fizzy and bubbly, the film feels like a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day, leaving us with a pleasant reminder of the thrills that summer can bring.

• Anaïs in Love is released on 19 August in cinemas.